mid-October: high autumn I like to think of it & literalist as I am I’m sipping some old, too-dry homemade melomel adulterated with a dash of sickly sweet fine wine product as the fine print calls it, more & more agog at the way this gulf of space beyond my front step teems with insects zooming swarming floating pogoing, seeds & strands of spider silk drifting in the strong sunlight – aeroplankton as Fred First so aptly says, & though I feel at this moment a kind of joy it is not without longing or perhaps concrete representation, as into my mind’s eye comes unbidden the image of a woman swaying to the music she pulls from a violincello, collaborators in the translation of some dead composer’s long-ago feeling about a day perhaps not too different from this, the two of them, woman & cello, wearing nothing but the blanket of the poor as the Mexican dicho has it – I mean the sun
overcast & still except for a single cricket
a screech owl trills 3 times
15 seconds later the ground shakes
there’s a deafening roar as an A-10 Warthog
hurtles low over the ridge
the sound is gone almost as quickly as it came
but this sudden tightness takes so much longer
to come unclenched
in fact it takes a lifetime
for the heart to unlearn all
its stubborn habits
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was nicknamed the Warthog for its general ugliness and slowness relative to other jets. It is possibly one of the most terrifying killing machines ever built. As one fan puts it, the A-10 may be “best described as a flying gatling gun. The airframe is such that it is essentially designed around the gun itself. High battlefield survivability is built into the A-10 with heavy titanium plates around the pilot and vital control components. Landing gear is spaced to provide optimum placement of ordinance. The large General Electric turbofans are placed high on the rear fuselage exhausting above the tailplanes to partially mask the infra red signature to ground based missiles.” What this site fails to mention is that the Gatling gun tends to be loaded with depleted uranium shells – hence the jet’s other nickname, Tankbuster. A-10s can also carry a variety of high explosive and cluster bombs, laser-guided missiles, etc.
For those who have never had the experience, I can only say that when a jet like this roars over your house with no warning you feel a mixture of terror and helplessness, like a cockroach without anything to scuttle under. But on a visit to a National Guard base two months ago, I watched A-10s in action and was thrilled – even awed. So I guess that, just as with powerful, mind-altering drugs, how one reacts to weapons of mass destruction is mostly a matter of mindset and setting.